Meadowsweet & Cherry Ice Cream

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Another wonderful Summer Wild Food Adventure yesterday roaming around Molesey Heath led by my fabulous friend and medical herbalist, Janine Gerhardt – so good to be out and about with foraging friends again. Although we were not able to enjoy our usual workshop due to restrictions around social distancing, we did end the day with a picnic, which included a bowl of delicious Meadowsweet & Cherry Ice Cream.

Meadowsweet is truly the Queen of the Meadows, a profusion of fluffy white flowers with a delicate, sweet scent that reminds me of baby talc (am I the only one?). Its fragrance made it popular as a strewing herb used to fragrance the floors of homes, whilst providing the additional benefit of acting as an insecticide. This dainty flower is a powerful herb and the original source of salicylic acid – the key ingredient of aspirin. Because of this it is commonly used by herbalists as an effective anti-inflammatory with the added benefit that, unlike aspirin, it is very gentle on the gut.

Because of its salicylic acid content, it should be avoided by anyone allergic to aspirin and should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Caution may also be warranted by those with asthma or on blood-thinning medication.

The meadowsweet has been partnered with sweet cherries. Sadly, I missed the wild cherry season and had to use shop bought cherries (next year I will be better organised!). I have however chosen to add a dash of sour cherry juice concentrate which adds an intense, sour cherry flavour to the ice cream. This can either be added to the ice cream before churning, or drizzled over the frozen ice cream just before serving. Like the meadowsweet, the sour cherry also provides more than a just a flavour, as it has been traditionally used to ease joint pain (especially gout), and is also a source of melatonin, so may also help support restful sleep.

All of that aside – it was delicious!

Thanks to www.rosiebirkett.com for the original recipe and inspiration.

 

Meadowsweet & Cherry Ice Cream

Serves 4-8

Ingredients

  • 200g cherries, pitted and sliced
  • 10 heads of meadowsweet flowers (shaken free of insects!)
  • 300ml double cream
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 100g xylitol (or sweetener of choice)
  • 3 large eggs (we only need the egg yolks for this recipe)

To serve

  • 1-2 teaspoons sour cherry juice concentrate (eg: Cherry Active)

Method

  • Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and add 50g of xylitol and the meadowsweet.
  • Gently heat, stirring frequently until just reaching boiling point, then remove from the heat and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.
  • Separate the eggs.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 50g of xylitol until frothy and thick.
  • Strain the infused cream through a muslin cloth, then return to the pan and bring just up to the boil.
  • Slowly pour the hot cream into the egg mixture, whisking continuously.
  • Return to mixture to a clean saucepan and heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring continuously, until the mixture starts to thicken (you are looking for a texture that coats the back of a wooden spoon).
  • Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  • Pour into an ice cream maker along with the cherries and churn, according to manufacturer’s instructions, for about 40-50 minutes or until softly frozen.
  • Enjoy immediately drizzled with 1-2 teaspoons of sour cherry juice concentrate, or transfer into a container and freeze until required.

 

Elderflower Vinegar & Shrub

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I hope this isn’t getting too boring, but I am so loving the elderflower season this year. One final recipe (probably) to share that is well worth squeezing if you can still find some elderflowers …

Elderflower Vinegar

Makes about 1 litre

Ingredients

  • About 25-30 stems of elderflower blossoms
  • 1 litre of organic apple cider vinegar

Method

  • Gently shake the elderflowers blossoms to remove any insects, then snip off the stalks so you only have the flowers left.
  • Place the flowers into a large, sterile jar and pour in the vinegar. I placed a ‘pickle pebble’ on top of the flowers to help keep these submerged in the vinegar, but this isn’t essential.
  • Put a lid on the jar, then simply leave to infuse for 2-3 weeks, swishing the contents occasionally (I tasted mine at 2 weeks and was happy with the flavour).
  • When ready, strain the vinegar through a muslin cloth and pour into sterilized bottles.

This vinegar is delicious blended into a salad dressing, or drizzled over fish, but my favourite way to enjoy it is as a drink, topped up with fizzy water.

As this flavoured vinegar is raw, it has the additional benefit of providing a good source of beneficial bacteria. Store this in a cool dark place (I keep mine in the fridge).

Once infused, you also have the option of adding a sweetener to make this into a ‘shrub’. The name is derived from the Arabic ‘sharbah’, which means ‘drink’. Shrubs date back to the 15th century in the UK and are derived from medicinal cordials of the time, although other countries also have their versions of this fruit and vinegar-based drink.

If I choose to sweeten my infused vinegar, I tend to use Sweet Freedom. This is a sweet syrup made from natural sugars found in carob, grapes and apples, and has a much lower fructose content than processed agave, making it a healthier option. It also has no distinct flavour, so blends well into different recipes. Unprocessed agave or honey, especially raw honey, would also be good choices (and would make this into an ‘oxymel’), but would influence the flavour of the shrub, so choose wisely if you don’t want to completely over-ride the delicate flavour of the elderflower. Warming the infused liquid may be necessary to help dissolve the sweetener into the blend.

Elderflower & Rhubarb Shrub

Makes about 1 litre

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of of elderflower blossoms (removed from the stems)
  • 3 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • Organic apple cider vinegar (see below for quantity)
  • 1 cup of sugar (or honey, or Sweet Freedom syrup)
  • 2 cups of water
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon

Method

  • Pour the water into a saucepan with the rhubarb and sweetener of choice, then heat to simmering point, stirring to dissolve the sugar (or syrup / honey). Simmer the rhubarb for about 5 minutes or until very soft, then turn off the heat.
  • Place the flowers into a large, sterile jar and pour over the hot rhubarb mixture.
  • Cover the jar with a muslin cloth and allow to sit for two days.
  • After two days, pour the rhubarb mixture through a muslin cloth and discard the solids.
  • Measure out the amount of syrup you have and add to that half that quantity of vinegar (eg: if you had 4 cups of syrup, you will need to add 2 cups of vinegar).
  • Add the juice from 1/2 lemon and stir.
  • Pour the shrub into sterile bottles.
  • Dilute with water for a refreshing drink.

I found that the longer I keep this, the better the flavour, as the vinegar mellows very nicely, however I do store this in the fridge.

 

 

 

Coconut & Cloves

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This post has been prompted by working with a client who has been suffering from toothache but unable to see her dentist during lockdown. It is a reminder that simple things can sometimes make a big difference.

Dabbing a little clove oil directly onto the gum can help numb the area, providing some pain relief. The eugenol in clove is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

If you don’t have clove oil, you can use whole cloves (some in your spice rack?). Steeping these in boiling water, can make a soothing, cleansing mouthwash and is also my go-to for cleaning our toothbrushes each week.

Another simple way to help support healthy gums is to try oil chewing, or ‘pulling’ – a practice which can be done first thing in the morning, before cleaning your teeth or enjoying a cuppa. Simply put a teaspoon of coconut oil in the mouth and chew! Whilst chewing, also draw the oil between your teeth (this is the ‘pulling’ part). Keep this going for as long as you can – 10 minutes has been shown to be effective (I personally find keeping my mouth shut for any longer than this in the morning difficult anyway …!).

When finished, spit the mixture of oil and saliva out (it’s amazing just how much of a mouthful you end up with) and rinse your mouth with water – don’t swallow it.

The process of oil chewing helps to draw toxins and bacteria from the around the teeth and gums. Although this process has been used for centuries, there has been little science to substantiate its perceived benefit. One study1 however has found that coconut oil chewing to be as effective at reducing levels of Streptococcus mutans (a bacteria associated with dental caries) as a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine (a potent disinfectant).

You can use other oils besides coconut oil, but coconut oil has a pleasant flavour and its own antimicrobial properties. You can always add a drop or two of peppermint oil into your pot of coconut oil to add a bit of extra minty freshness.

It is a simple, but effective way to help support oral health (and your gums will feel fabulous!).

If you do try it, let me know how you get on!

1.Kaushik M, Reddy P, Sharma R, Udameshi P, Mehra N, Marwaha A. The Effect of Coconut Oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2016;17(1):38‐41. Published 2016 Jan 1. doi:10.5005/jp-journals-10024-1800

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Couldn’t resist a pic of my fabulous new bamboo toothbrushes (the black one is from Nordics, whilst the purple and rainbow ones are Humble Brushes) along with a pot of activated charcoal toothpaste (all from http://www.biggreensmile.com). A colourful way to help reduce single-use plastics.

Rhubarb & Elderflower

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Proving the old adage right – what grows together, goes together. The taste of early summer and my new favourite cordial. Seize the season!

Rhubarb & Elderflower Cordial

Makes about 2 litres

 Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 litres water
  • About 35-40 stems of elderflower blossoms
  • 2 cups of mild honey or Sweet Freedom (I used a mixture of both)
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 heaped cups of chopped rhubarb

Method

  • Pour the water into a saucepan and heat until simmering.
  • Add the rhubarb and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb has broken down and the water is turning pink.
  • Add the honey, or Sweet Freedom, and stir to dissolve.
  • Gently shake the elderflowers blossoms to remove any insects, then snip off most of the stems (the very small stems at the tops of the flowers are fine).
  • Place the elderflowers in a warm, sterile 2 litre jar, along with the lemon zest and juice, then pour over the hot liquid.
  • Allow to steep for at least 4 hours (I left mine overnight).
  • Strain the cordial through a muslin cloth into sterile bottles or freeze in ice cube trays until required. Store the cordial in the fridge.

This cordial has a lovely balance of sweetness and acidity. To serve, add 1-2 tablespoons of the cordial into a glass and top-up with sparkling water (or wine).  I have been diluting mine with water kefir for additional probiotic benefit (and a great flavour).

Many thanks to http://thebountyhunter.ca for the original idea and recipe.

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Labyrinth

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Lock-down has presented all sorts of problems for those dealing with anxiety issues. Routines, which have previously provided sanctuary, have been stripped away leaving people very vulnerable to their fears and worries. Lack of exercise and exposure to daylight have further compounded problems, especially for the elderly and vulnerable who have been more house-bound.

I bought this beautiful finger labyrinth as a present for a loved one who has been struggling  with anxiety and insomnia. The feeling of being ‘wired and tired’ has meant that she finds it near impossible to slow down, despite being exhausted. A still meditation was out of the question, but one which included some movement (I hoped) may be easier for her.

A labyrinth is a winding path which, unlike a maze, follows a single continuous route into the centre and back out again. The design combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral and represents a journey to our own centre and back again out into the world. Labyrinths are thought to date back over 4,000 years and have long been used to aid meditation and prayer.

When we walk a labyrinth, we are walking our life journey.

You don’t need a carved labyrinth to benefit from this gentle mindfulness exercise – you can print off different labyrinth designs from the internet or, for the more creative of you, you can model your own 3D labyrinth out of air-drying clay (a mindfulness exercise in itself!).

Using a finger labyrinth:

  • Take a deep breath in and out and ready yourself.
  • Place the index finger from your non-dominant hand at the entrance of the labyrinth*. Close your eyes (if you are using a 3D labyrinth).
  • Allow your finger to slowly follow the path of the labyrinth. Feel every turn and every curve. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the feeling of the pathway and the slow, ongoing movement.
  • Your breathing should feel natural and relaxed.
  • When you reach the centre, pause for a moment, taking note of how you are feeling.
  • When ready, slowly begin to retrace your path back out of the labyrinth again.
  • When you are back to the beginning, pause and observe how you are feeling.
  • Repeat the journey as many times as you want.

*Using your non-dominant hand means you need to focus more on your finger and the challenges of moving it along the curving pathway – helping to keep your attention in your body and allowing the mind to calm. If this is too difficult initially, start with your dominant hand and return to your non-dominant hand once you are more comfortable with the process.

My beautiful wooden finger labyrinth was made in Germany: https://dasfingerlabyrinth.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Celebration of the Elderflower

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An old saying goes that the English summer only arrives once the elder is in flower and that the summer is over when the elder berries arrive.

My good friend and medical herbalist, Janine Gerhardt, recommends a tea made from elderflowers as the best herbal remedy for a cold. “Elderflowers are antiviral and support the immune system. If a fever is present, a hot tea helps to ‘break it’. This means that the elder infusion will draw the heat from the centre of the body to its outside where the pores will open and heat is released. Elderflowers are also effective at reducing histamine release, so use them freely for any form of  hay fever symptoms. Isn’t it amazing that nature provides us with what we need, when we need it?”

A great amount of folk-lore surrounds the elder. Take care when picking elderflowers to first ask the permission of the spirit of the elder, which is believed to be present within the tree. Pick only the frothy flower heads and not any leaves which are toxic if taken internally.

 

Lemon & Elderflower Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 unwaxed lemons (plus the juice of one extra lemon)
  • 2-3tbs elderflower cordial
  • 6 eggs
  • 250g Xylitol (or caster sugar)
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 1tsp (heaped) baking powder
  • Few drops of almond extract (optional)

Method

  • Put the lemons in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring this to the boil, cover and cook for 2 hours (do keep checking the water and top up when necessary). Drain and leave to cool.
  • When cool, remove all the pips, then pulp everything (skin, pith and fruit) in a food processor along with 1tbs of elderflower cordial and the juice of one lemon.
  • Set the oven to 190˚C / 375˚F / gas mark 5.
  • Grease and line a 21cm spring form tin.
  • Add the eggs, xylitol (or sugar), ground almonds, baking powder and almond extract (if using) to the fruit pulp in the food processor and whizz until well combined.
  • Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour in the centre of the oven (cover the cake with foil after 40 minutes to prevent it from becoming too brown).
  • Test with a fine skewer to ensure that the cake is cooked (the skewer should come out clean from the cake if it is cooked). If not, return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes and check again (the baking time can vary due to the size of lemons used etc – my cake took an additional 20 minutes this time!).
  • When cooked, remove from the oven and, using a fine skewer, prick the cake all over the surface.
  • Pour over another 1-2 tbs of elderflower cordial, then allow the cordial to seep into the cake whilst the cake cools in the tin, placed on a wire rack.
  • Once the cake is cooled, remove from the cake tin and enjoy!

This is one of may favourite cakes – it has a dense, moist texture and is delicious with a cup of tea or a glass of elderflower champagne!

Elderflower Cordial

(recipe from River Cottage)

makes 2 litres

  Ingredients

  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons plus their juice
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange plus its juice
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional – but does help provide some acidity) 

Method

  • Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects.
  • Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the lemon zest.
  • Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest.
  • Cover and leave to infuse for 20 minutes or longer (overnight is fine too).
  • Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan.
  • Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).
  • Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilized bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilized screw-tops or corks.
  • Dilute with plain or sparkling water to taste.

Janine’s Raw, No-Sugar Elderflower Champagne

makes 1.5 litres

 Ingredients

  • 5 (or more) elderflower heads
  • 10 dates, chopped
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, chopped into slices
  • 1 1/2 litres spring water

Method

  • Mix all ingredients together in a jar, cover with a lid and leave to ferment for 2-3 days (check daily and burp jar).
  • Strain into sterilized swing top bottles and enjoy!

Lemon juice contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and citric acid (a natural preservative) so this raw beauty should last a few weeks in the fridge but I bet it won’t come to that!!

 

 

DIY Beeswax Food Wraps

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You will need:

  • Cotton fabric (any old shirts or pillowcases you don’t need any more?)
  • Beeswax pellets (I bought mine from http://www.livemoor.co.uk)
  • Large baking sheet
  • Baking parchment (non-stick)
  • Paint brush

Step 1: prepare your fabric

Cut your cotton fabric to required sizes (I made a mixture of small and larger pieces) and  used pinking shears to help prevent fraying at the edges. 

Step 2: make your wraps

Oven Method

I personally found this the easiest (and was less messy!).

  • Preheat the oven to 180° / gas mark 4.
  • Place your cut fabric onto a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking parchment.
  • Sprinkle some beeswax pellets onto your fabric – right up to the edges (I discovered that a little seems to go a long way, so don’t use quite as many as in my photo below!). If you don’t have the pellets, you can simply grate blocks of beeswax over the fabric.
  • Put the baking sheet into the warm oven for about 3 minutes, or until the wax has melted.
  • Remove from the oven and use a brush to move the wax over any areas that have not been quite coated.
  • Peel off the coated fabric from the baking paper and hold for a few minutes whilst this cools and hardens (this happens quite quickly). Alternatively, you can peg the fabric onto a coat hanger and hang this up to cool.
  • Your wax wrap is now ready to use!

Iron Method

  • Heat your iron to a low-medium temperature.
  • Place your cut fabric onto a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking parchment.
  • Sprinkle on some beeswax pellets as per the oven method above.
  • Cover with another sheet of baking paper and carefully iron the top sheet.
  • You will be able to see the wax melting as it heats up.
  • Once the wax has melted, peel off the top sheet of baking parchment, then peel off the finished wrap and allow to cool as above.

Your wax wrap can be safely used to wrap food or to cover bowls containing food as beeswax is naturally antimicrobial. The wax wraps provide a natural barrier around the food, but still allows the food to breathe (no sweaty cheese with these!). You will find that the wraps don’t absorb the odour of the food and instead remain beautifully honey-fragrant.

After use, wash your wax wraps in cold water using a mild soap (do not use hot water as this will melt the wax). Air-dry the wraps and reuse.

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Yoghurt

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Now and again, I dust down my yoghurt maker from the depths of my cupboard and make a fresh batch of homemade yoghurt (it really is a case of out of sight, out of mind). This recipe uses tinned coconut milk which I usually have in the cupboard and works out much cheaper than buying coconut yoghurt from the shops.

Coconut yoghurt, like yoghurt made from other non-dairy milks, has a very thin texture. This is fine if you simply want to add it to a smoothie, but if you want more of a creamier  texture, you will need to thicken it.

This can be done using gelatine or starches like tapioca or cornflour, however my current favourite thickener of choice is agar flakes. These add a gentle set to the yoghurt plus some additional fibre to help keep the gut bacteria happy.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of coconut milk (800ml)
  • 4 teaspoons agar flakes*

*4 teaspoons produces a gently set yoghurt (see photo). You can use 2 teaspoons for a softer set.

 

Instructions

Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and sprinkle over 4 teaspoons of agar flakes.

Gently heat the milk until it is simmering, then simmer for about 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently until all the agar flakes have dissolved (you will see any undissolved flakes on the back of your spoon – keep simmering and stirring until these have all gone). Do not boil the liquid as this will affect setting.

Once dissolved, allow the milk to cool to room temperature.

Put 2 teaspoons (10ml) of unflavoured natural live yoghurt into the bowl of the yoghurt maker – the fresher the better. Gradually stir in your coconut milk.

Cover with the inner lid. Place the bowl inside the insulated base and place the outer lid on top.

Turn on the yoghurt maker and set the timer for 8 hours – and that’s it – there is no need to stir or mix in the meantime. I tend to make yoghurt overnight, switching on the machine before I go to bed.

After 8 hours – or next morning – unplug the yoghurt maker and lift out the lidded bowl. Let it cool (the yoghurt will set as it cools), then store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Delicious simply served with some tangy blueberries and a drizzle of raw honey.

 

I used Waitrose organic coconut milk which produced a lovely set yoghurt. The canned milks which work best using this recipe tend to be those which have an emulsifying ingredient in them which stops the fat separating from the liquid. Any canned milk which has no emulsifier (identifiable because it tends to form a hard layer of coconut fat over a watery milk in the can) does not work well, as I discovered. As the milk cooled after heating, it reformed a hard fat layer in the yoghurt maker with a watery yoghurt below. The resulting yoghurt worked well in a smoothie but did not have a pleasant texture on its own. Learn from my mistakes!

 

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Thyme on our hands …

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I wanted to share a recipe for a natural deodorant that I have been using for some time now. I originally found this recipe at http://moldrecovery.blogspot.com and have tweaked it a little, omitting the powdered thyme as I could not source any when I first made it.

I think it works brilliantly (at least no complaints from those nearest and dearest) but for those nervous of trying something new and natural, social isolation could provide the perfect opportunity to try this out!

This deodorant is gentle on the skin and effectively absorbs any excess moisture without blocking the pores, allowing the body to naturally rid itself of toxins (especially important if you are sick and have a fever). The thyme provides quite a powerful (but not unpleasant) fragrance and antibacterial properties which may help reduce numbers of odour-causing bacteria.

If you do give it a go – let me know how you get on!

Rosemary & Thyme Natural Deodorant

Ingredients

  • ½ cup arrowroot
  • ¼ cup bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tbs bentonite clay
  • 1tsp zeolite powder
  • 40 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 13 drops thyme essential oil

Method

Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine (alternatively, place into a food processor and whizz together for about 15 seconds).

To best blend in the essential oils effectively, take half the powder mixture and place in a mortar. Gradually add the essential oils and grind into the powders using the pestle. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and blend again (I put this back into the food processor at this stage for a final 15 second blast to ensure all is well blended).

Put the powder into a small jar or shaker (I reused an old squirty bottle) and allow to sit for 3 days for the oils to permeate the powder before using.

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Chocolate Nests

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Chocolate Nests

Makes approx 9 small nests

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons coconut butter (or coconut oil)
  • 8 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 8 teaspoons Sweet Freedom (or maple syrup, or honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups of cornflakes
  • 27 mini eggs
  • Optional: add a scattering of sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, flaked almonds ….. etc

Method

Melt the cocoa butter (or coconut oil) in a bowl over a small saucepan of barely simmering water.

Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder and then add the Sweet Freedom (or maple syrup or honey) and vanilla extract and mix well to combine.

Pour 2 cups of cornflakes into a large mixing bowl and pour over the melted chocolate. Stir well so that the cornflakes are covered in chocolate. Add in a sprinkling of flaked almonds, sunflower seeds or dried cranberries if desired, or a few more cornflakes if not, and stir again to coat.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into small cake cases and make a well in the centre for a few chocolate eggs.  Pop in the fridge to set and enjoy whilst cold and crunchy.

 

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